The beer for this write-up paid for in part by guerilla marketer, gentleman, and Geordie adrift in the States Floyd Hayes. Thanks Floyd.
The Horseshoe is one of those places where a 50-year-old is referred to, without irony, as “young man.” Also, as the home to a troupe of Morris dancers, all the walking dead refer to one another as “Morris.” What was most entertaining was the fact that all of them were stone deaf despite the large number of hearing aids poking out of their heads…I think I got a bit of a tan off the collective radiation from them.
I stepped up to the bar and ordered a Buffalo Soldier, fantastic and witbier-esque and wonderful that while other brewers have put out Olympics-themed beverages Holt acknowledges 50 years of Jamaican independence.
“What?” “I said a Buffalo Soldier, please,” a bit louder and tapped on the tap.
The Shoe has bottles of wine for £8 and one of the old guys was sitting at the bar with half a bottle left. Their conversation was something like, “where’s your gang then, Morris?” “Huh?” “Where’s your gang then?” “They’ve nipped out across the road.” “What?” “Across the way,” pointing. ”Oh, across the way, then.” “What?”
His buddies showed up and it became this four-way comedy bit until they all settled into their individual stories, told loudly and simultaneously to no one that was listening (except for my eavesdropping). Another showed up and the bartender waves the rest off and it gets quiet, then he says to the interloper, “What do you want, Morris? Can’t you see I’m trying to have a conversation?”
“What?” said the new guy.
The giant bartender appears to have something of an accent, but smoothed out enough over the years in Britain that I didn’t want to venture a guess: you know, asking if he’s from New Zealand or Australia or Zimbabwe or South Africa could be as touchy a point as asking “American or Canadian?” [As it goes, most people ask where in America you are from even if they can’t tell if you are Canadian or American…Canadian’s don’t get offended by this but a lot of Americans do although, personally, I’m always pleased when someone asks what part of Canada I’m from).
I was in a bit of a hurry since I had miles ahead of me and was being pursued by the mutant legion of a neighbouring village, so I didn’t linger. Nice house, though, and a proper large selection of ales and cider…could easily see a Saturday by the fire trying to run the taps from left to right.
Leaving the Romany to return the way I ran out, I got about ten steps toward Buckland before the magnetic force of another bar pulled me in. It was the grand, old Talbot Hotel, this time, all exposed stone and timber within and on this day sunny spring weather without:
Bampton seems an alright little town, supporting four pubs including this one. It has a Morris Dancing bent (there is a nice mosaic tribute to this weirdness across the way from the Talbot) and, for some reason, the building at the corner of the three-way intersection across from my bench had what looked like Homer Simpson in a cape as its weather vane:
All good things end, though, and after a brief conversation with my tablemate we were both done with beer and neither wanted to pick up the next round. I sloshed my way back down the road cursing the fact that it was more uphill than down on the return trip.
The Morris Clown was closed, but Bampton, for such a small town, surprises you with four lively pubs…I ducked into the Romany Inn because traffic kept me from crossing over to the Horse Shoe (which, it turned out, was closed until later anyway). The pump clips were turned away but it looked like they might normally have London Pride and something else on; I opted for Carling #106.
The house was abandoned but it was still early. I watched some sport report on the promotions playoffs while the barkeeper settled into Countdown (sort of like a tele version of Boggle). Deciding to head home, I got back out on the trail.